- Published on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 07:12
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2277
According to some Catholics, God is not-violent. At least one who should know - Fr. Ron Rolheiser - writes about it in Canada’s Catholic Registry. He quickly admits that it seems that God is violent. He writes:
“Doesn’t God, in anger, wipe out the entire human race, save for Noah and his family? Doesn’t God ask Abraham to kill Isaac on an altar of sacrifice? Doesn’t Moses have to talk God out of destroying Israel because God is angry? Didn’t Jesus kick over the tables of the money-changers in anger? What about extremist Islam today, killing thousands of people in God’s name? God, it seems, has prescribed and sanctioned a lot of violence and killing from ancient times right down until today. How do we explain all the violence attributed to God?”
He uses “anthropomorphically” to describe the fact that humans tend to see human attributes in inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena. The idea is that god is a spiritual being and does not feel anger or for that matter any human emotions so when we describe god as angry – we are describing the situation in human terms. And when we see god being violent of approving violence, it only seems that way – it’s not really what we think. Many theologians take it further and say that we cannot understand why god does what he does – we cannot understand why natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes kill innocent people. The point is repeated that God is a spiritual being and we cannot begin to understand him although it’s useful to talk about him in human terms.
OK, I can buy that. If there is a God that we can’t see, then he must be different to us – somehow immaterial. Leaving aside the statement that God created man in his own image (Gen 1:27), let’s assume that God does not have emotions. That works to dismiss violence and anger as attributes of God. Unfortunately, it also says that other emotions like love and compassion are also anthropomorphically attributed to God and that God cannot feel love. He may act in a way that we interpret as love – but it’s not love. It would be impossible to feel God’s love. If there was a god, he would not love anyone. It’s comparable to thinking that a “thought” or “feeling” loves us! You can’t say God cannot show or feel anger and then say that he shows and feels love.
Fr. Rolheiser goes on to say that the Bible should not be taken literally – “The violence and killing are metaphorical”. Many other theologians say this kind of thing. This too is a double edged sword. If we can’t take the violence and killing literally, why should we take anything else in the bible literally? This thought says that the parts about god loving us are also a metaphor! (I have a hard time thinking of what kind of metaphor this would be – how about god’s love is like our love for money? We want more and then we spend it!) In any event, you can’t have some parts of the bible interpreted as a metaphor and not others. How can we tell which is which?
As a minimum, this learned theologian should go back to square one. His arguments do not compute. He needs to accept that his god can be violent or he can’t be loving. Sorry.